Okoboji ice fishing season is approaching the middle of February and the bite on the Iowa Great Lakes continues to amaze me in the new year! As mentioned in our last article, we expected this to be a good winter for ice fishing in Okoboji and fishing so far has been red hot! It took awhile for good ice to develop because of a couple of larger snow events that insulated the early ice we had in December, but by the time we ushered in the New Year in 2016, people were starting to get out as the weather turned colder and started making better ice.
In the month of January we targeted Bluegills and Crappies on West Okoboji in shallow water less than 8 feet, and as the month progressed we found fish out a little deeper in 14-16 feet of water. The best baits for us were gold tungsten jigs and plastics in purple, pink, black and natural. These color combinations brought some very nice fish to the top of the ice not only for some small meals but also for some great catch and release photos!
As January came to a close we started fishing Yellow Bass as the ice thickness improved, which allowed for more mobility and access to deeper water on East Okoboji. The key so far this season has been trying to stay with these schools of fish compared to previous seasons. Spoons tipped with wigglers are a "go to" bait for us when targeting Yellow Bass because you can get down quick on an active school of fish and also fish holes faster when searching for them. There have been days however, when you only drill a few holes and it doesn't matter what bait you are fishing.....they are like Piranha and eat anything you throw at them!
February started out with a Blizzard that brought more snow and lots of wind that created access problems for a couple of days as well as making travel on the ice a little tougher. However, this is what I love about running a snowmobile for my boat on ice! We've covered a lot of ice on Big Spirit Lake the last 9 days and got on some very nice Perch! Some days this bite has been a little tougher and the next day it's outstanding. As February progresses this bite should will improve even more as we approach the late ice period of our season.
We've had success on every outing so far this season, targeting every species of panfish the Iowa Great Lakes has to offer. The key to success for us has been mobility and I cannot emphasize this enough. There have been some days where we didn't need to drill a lot of holes to contact fish and other days where we have drilled LOTS of holes to keep up with schools of fish. As an ice angler, be willing to move and do some searching if the bite is a little slower where you are fishing. You never know what is sitting below the next hole that you drill and this is one of the most exciting parts of ice fishing when you find a school of aggressive fish away from the crowd!
Teamwork is another aspect of ice fishing that I firmly believe in when fishing with friends or customers. Getting everyone involved in the search is not only fun, but also rewarding for all involved when you find the "Motherload"! It can be a lot of work some days punching holes, but with a good plan of attack before hitting the ice, a group can cut down on the time it takes to locate a hungry school of fish. It has been a great season to date and the late ice period will be here before we know it!
If you are traveling to the Iowa Great Lakes on your own ice fishing adventure contact one of the local bait shops in the area for fishing information to help you if you are not hiring a guide. Kabele's Trading Post, Stan's Bait and Tackle and Oh' Shucks are all great sources of information for anglers and carry a full line of ice tackle, equipment and clothing. Stay safe out there, tight lines and hope to see you on the ice!